[note note_color=”#412062″ text_color=”#ffffff”]A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma • September 4, 2018 • Algonquin Young Readers
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Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will cost for her to leave . . .[/note]
[note note_color=”#BFD1D1″ text_color=”#ffffff”]I received this book for free from Algonquin Young Readers for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.[/note]
First sentence: “When the girl who lived in the room below mine disappeared into the darkness, she gave no warning, she showed no twitch of fear. “
When Bina is forced out of the home because of her new stepfather and two new stepsisters, she turns to the only place that she knows she’ll be safe at—the Catherine House in New York City. This place served as a safe haven for her mother once upon a time ago, so why not of her as well? Bina enters the mysterious Catherine House where she’s met with a tragic history of the founder, girls with secrets hidden in their sleeves, and possibly magic.
- A Room Away From the Wolves has that gothic vibe I enjoy reading.
And by gothic, I mean this type of gothic literature that usually involves a big house with a lot of history, and plays with the dark scenery, and gives us this vibe of mysteriousness and overwhelming dreads.
It’s a very atmospheric book, and that’s due to Nova Ren Suma’s gorgeous writing and the careful pacing of the story. You’re in Bina’s shoes—weird shit is happening, and you don’t know what and why. You just get this sense that something is really off with Catherine House and the people in it. This book is very good about making these emotions radiate off the pages.
This book is confusing and unsettling.
You don’t know what’s going on in A Room Away From the Wolves most of the time. Here is this girl, who’s relationship with her mother is on the rocks even though their bond is unbreakable, fleeing to this mysterious all-girls boarding house, Catherine House. At this house, strange things are happening—you can’t break curfew (something will happen if you do), nobody is to know about this house, the girls in the house want to help Catherine de Barra even though she had been dead for hundreds of years. So many mysteries surrounding this place that will confuse you. It’s an unsettling feeling not knowing what’s going on. What kinds of things are lurking in the shadows? You’ll come out of reading this book with more questions.
- It’s very sloooooooowww.
This book takes its sweeeeettt time. If you’re impatient and want immediate action, A Room Away From the Wolves isn’t filled with a lot of action; it’s more introspective. It focuses on Bina and the situation she’s in, and the writing releases these emotions of desire, belonging, and acceptance. It isn’t so much about the mystery of Catherine House, but about these girls who have been neglected or abused by their family and what they had to give up.
- Everything is left in the air.
If you’re looking for concrete answers to your questions about what the heck is going in A Room Away From the Wolves, you won’t find them by the ending. It’s very much up to your interpretation of what happened to Bina and what was happening in her world at Catherine House. This book plays on that magical realism aspect of the book, so of course there’s nothing that will root you to a definite “this is what really happened.” I would’ve liked to know why certain things happened and such, but I’m okay not exactly knowing because this is one of those books I need to reread.
Should you read A Room Away From the Wolves? Yes, if you’re okay with slow pacing and not knowing what is going on in the book! A Room Away From the Wolves is perfect for readers who just want an atmospheric, magical realism-esque book that explores loss and trying to belong in a world that is cruel. I enjoy reading confusing books that purposely doesn’t give me answers.
I will revisit this book later because this book is definitely worth another reread to figure out what the heck is going on.